Current Affairs

Morning Brief: Chidambaram’s Son Controlled Firm That Got Bribe In Aircel-Maxis Deal; Tamil Nadu MLAs Disqualification Case Verdict Today; Government Open To Listing Air India

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram arrives for questioning at the Enforcement Directorate office. (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.

Chidambaram’s Son Controlled Firm That Got ‘Bribe’ In Aircel-Maxis Deal

“Each and every aspect” of Advantage Strategic Consulting, the firm which got Rs 26 lakh as ‘bribe’ in the Aircel-Maxis deal, was controlled by Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has said in its charge sheet filed in the case. The ED has already questioned the father-son duo in the case. According to the agency, P Chidambaram granted Foreign Investment Promotion Board approval in the Aircel-Maxis Foreign Direct investment case even though he was authorised to accord approval to project proposals only up to Rs 600 crore and required an approval from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for projects beyond that. The agency is now investigating “the circumstances of the FIPB approval granted (in 2006) by the then finance minister.” Indrani Mukerjea, former head of INX Media, has accepted that she paid over Rs 3 crore in bribe to Karti Chidambaram.

Tamil Nadu MLAs Disqualification Case Verdict Today

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The Madras High Court will today give its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLAs owing allegiance to AMMK leader TVV Dhinakaran. The court had reserved verdict in the case on 23 January. The ruling can put Tamil Nadu politics in a flux. While the government would stay if the MLAs lose the case, it will be vulnerable in the subsequent byelections to the 18 assembly seats. If the MLAs win and decide to vote against the Edappadi K Palaniswami government, it could fall. The government would need 117 votes in the 234-member assembly for a simple majority, four more than its current tally of 113 MLAs. However, the likelihood of the MLAs voting against the government is low. Rebel leader Thangatamilselvan has said that the intention is not to pull down the government, but to get what is due to them.

Government Said To Be Open To Listing Air India

Unsuccessful in attracting buyers for a 76 per cent stake in the debt-laden Air India, the government is reportedly considering listing the ailing carrier, a report in the Mint said. According to the report, which cites an official, the government is considering several proposals related to the disinvestment process, but is unwilling to allow complete foreign ownership of the airline. One of these proposals could be reducing the debt government passes on to potential buyers and restructuring the large workforce, Reuters reported. According to a Business Today report, the government is considering revising the terms of sale for Air India and may sell 100 per cent stake in airline after failing to secure bids in its first attempt. Government's offer to sell only 76 per cent stake in the airline and a clause to retain employees for a year are reported to have acted as major roadblocks in the process.

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India, China In Talks To Form Bloc Against OPEC

India and China are reportedly in talks on forming a front against the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a major influencer of oil prices. The two countries, which accounted for 17 per cent of the world oil consumption last year, would be in a better position to bargain with OPEC members if they address the issue together. Talks between the two countries on this issue kicked off in Beijing on Monday. This development come just months after Minister of Petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan proposed an alliance between Indian and Chinese state-run oil companies for a greater say in the market. The two countries are expected to mainly target West Asian members of OPEC. In 2017, OPEC and some non-OPEC producers, including Russia, started withholding output in an effort to curb global oversupply. Crude has nearly tripled from the early 2016 low of $26 a barrel.

Nirav Modi Used Revoked Passport Four Times To Travel: Interpol

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Nirav Modi travelled four times between three countries using a passport that was revoked by India on 24 February, the Interpol has informed Indian investigation agencies. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the Interpol to issue a red corner notice against the fugitive billionaire, who masterminded the Rs 14,356 crore fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB). If the Interpol accepts the request, Modi can be arrested by the police of any country. While some news reports say Modi is holed up in London, CBI denies any knowledge of his whereabouts. Modi had fled the country in the first week of January, weeks before the bank filed a complaint with the CBI. He is accused of cheating PNB through fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertakings and Foreign Letters of Credit.

Nepal's Prime Minister K P Oli To Visit China

Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Oli will pay a five-day visit to China for the first time since taking power in February. This is his second visit abroad, after a visit to India in April. Projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative, which India and other nations have criticised for lacking transparency and creating debt burdens, is expected to figure prominently during his talks with the Chinese leadership. During a visit to China in 2016, Oli had signed the landmark Transit Agreement with the country, which was aimed at opening new options for transport to reduce dependence on India. Oli, who heads a collation government of communist parties, had whipped up anti-India sentiments to rally support before the elections last year. Considered pro-Beijing, Oli is expected to sign agreements with China on bringing the Chinese railway network to Kathmandu and cross-border power transmission.

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We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!

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